Tarita Davenock puts the access in accessible travel
Tarita Davenock: Thoughts on Travel
Accessible travel is tough, but I think having a physical disability or a child with special needs should not exclude anyone from traveling. However, you may have to spend some extra time planning to have the trip of a lifetime. I’m a certified special needs travel advocate. I know my clients need someone who will pay attention to details for their travel. I’ve had some of the same experiences that many travelers with disabilities have.
One time I went to Mexico on a trip. I had planned to stay in a hotel that advertised that it was accessible. However, once I arrived, I realized it wasn’t. To solve this problem, I quickly got on the phone, found another resort that was accessible and moved. I realized that this problem could happen to other people with special needs, and they might not know what to do.
This Mexico trip highlights the top three issues facing travelers with disabilities – correct information, the right accommodations and access. One of the advantages I have by having multiple sclerosis and special needs is that I’ve not only encountered most of the problems people with special needs have when they travel, but I’ve learned how to solve these problem quickly and efficiently and not lose any of the joy of traveling. Also, because I’ve been to many of the countries and the facilities I recommend, I can tell my clients exactly what to expect and why I feel this particular facility will be best for them. About 6 years ago I started my own company, which I eventually renamed Travel-for-All.
My motto is, “Travel should be inclusive – not exclusive.” My goal is to make the world accessible.
How I Got in the Travel Business
I eventually decided the time had come for me to stay at home instead of going to the office every day. I started my own business to help people like me who wanted to travel. I realized when I went into business for myself that I wouldn’t have a steady paycheck coming in every 2 weeks. When my doctor told me I needed to change careers, I began to read the local newspaper to see what jobs I could find. I discovered an ad for a local travel agency. The ad read, “We’re looking for someone who travels a lot and who enjoys people to come and join our agency.” I really enjoyed traveling, and I loved people. I felt that ad was describing me. I met the fellow who owned the agency. He hired me on the spot, and I stayed with that agency for 15 years. That’s where I learned how to arrange travel for people. I wasn’t in a wheelchair at that time. However, as my MS progressed, I had to start traveling with my wheelchair.
However, I also knew that 1 in 4 people had some form of disability, and that the largest population of people in the United States was baby boomers who were getting older. They couldn’t see, hear or walk as well as they did when they were younger.
So, under the broad term of people with disabilities, I recognized that there was a huge market of people who wanted to travel. They needed someone who could tell them what their experiences would be like. If they were overly concerned, I could arrange to have someone at each destination stay with them once they arrived at their destination, and until they left their destination. I also knew the hotels, the motels and the attractions I’d been to that really understood the needs of people with disabilities. They not only knew how to meet those needs, but they were happy to help.